Bronco Mendenhall has guided Brigham Young to seven bowl games in seven seasons as coach. The Cougars will meet Tulsa on Dec. 30 in the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas.
Mendenhall is 4-2 in bowl games and has played five times in the Las Vegas bowl. He has plenty of fond memories of those postseason games.
“I remember the blocked field goal against UCLA (2007) and a picked-up fumble and run for a touchdown against Oregon State (2009) in the wind,” Mendenhall said. “I also remember our disappointing (31-21) loss to Arizona (2008). We learned a lot about the postseason and how the more motivated team might have the edge.”
A win over Tulsa would make Mendenhall the first BYU coach to win three consecutive bowl games.
“I think the landscape has changed to where it is very important for teams to play well in the postseason in terms of how your program is viewed and for momentum going into the following year,” he said.
BYU will arrive in Dallas on Monday. The Cougars (9-3) and Golden Hurricane (8-4) play at 9 a.m. PST Friday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the Southern Methodist campus. The game will be televised on ESPN (30).
■ A FOR APO — BYU receiver Ross Apo, who leads the team with nine touchdown catches, will be playing close to home in his first bowl game. The redshirt freshman is from Arlington, Texas.
Apo sustained a dislocated finger during practice early in the 2010 season and sat out the rest of the year.
“I was able to watch film and learn the little things,” he said. “It prepared me for this season.”
The 6-foot-3-inch Apo averages 13.3 yards per catch and is a complement to BYU’s other big target, 6-4 Cody Hoffman, who averages 15.5 yards a catch.
“There is a lot of benefit to a freshman redshirting and learning, getting up early to lift, focusing on school and realizing how much they want to play,” Mendenhall said. “Ross is an excellent player, but has also had a lot of time to prepare.”
■ TEXAS TRIFECTA — BYU is 0-2 in Texas this season. The Cougars lost at No. 21 Texas 17-16 on Sept. 9, then lost to Texas Christian 38-28 on Oct. 28 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
“It’s a great football state and it’s cool to play in front of your family and friends,” said Brandon Ogletree, a senior linebacker from McKinney, Texas, who leads the defense with 67 tackles. “It just adds to the excitement.”
■ UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP — BYU and ESPN share a unique history that began with the Cougars’ 20-14 upset at No. 5 Pittsburgh to open the 1984 season. The game set BYU and the fledgling network on a course no one could have predicted.
BYU went on to a 13-0 season and won the national championship after beating Michigan in the Holiday Bowl.
ESPN used the BYU-Pitt game as a springboard into televising live sporting events. Since that first broadcast, ESPN has evolved into the most powerful influence in sports. This postseason it is televising 31 games, including the BCS national championship.
With ESPN as a TV partner during their first year as an independent in football, the Cougars played on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU 10 times, with No. 11 to come in the Armed Forces Bowl.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” athletic director Tom Holmoe said of the school’s relationship with the network.
Dave McCann is a morning news anchor on KLAS-TV (Channel 8). He hosts “True Blue” at 5 p.m. on Monday on BYUtv, is the play-by-play voice for BYUtv and hosts “Cougar Countdown” at noon Wednesday on KSHP-AM (1400) and Sirius XM 143 BYUradio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter@davemccann8.